of affiliated composers

VELDEN, Renier Van der

Renier VAN DER VELDEN was born in Borgerhout on 14 January 1910. He studied at the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp from the age of fourteen but was unable to complete his formal music studies, partly because of his military service. He subsequently received private lessons from J. Jongen and K. Candael. Van der Velden was thus for the most part a self-taught musician. From 1945, he worked for the BRT (Belgian Radio and Television) in Antwerp, where he ensured that new Flemish music was given an important place in his programmes. In the years 1947-48, he led the male-voice choir, Lasallekring, with which, besides the songs of J. Broeckx and F. D'Haeyer, he performed folksong arrangements by Bela Bartok. He also put together a chamber-music ensemble of professional singers with which he presented concerts in the Rubenshuis in Antwerp. In 1961, Van der Velden received the prize of the Province of Antwerp for his Ballet, Judith . SABAM (the Belgian authors' rights association) awarded him the Paul Gilson Prize in 1967 for his complete oeuvre. His Sinfonietta for orchestra won the Visser-Neerlandia Prize in 1970. In that same year he became a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Arts, Letters and Sciences of Belgium. Many of Van der Velden' s works were premiered at the Flanders Festival in Ghent, such as the Concertino for flute and string orchestra (1965) and the Concerto for piano and strings (1971). The Union of Belgian Composers awarded him the 1989 Fuga Prize for his part in the advancement of Belgian music. Four years later, on 19 January 1993, Van der Velden died in Antwerp.

Van der Velden's oeuvre consists primarily of ballet and chamber music. Ballet music flourished in Antwerp in the 1950s, partly through the works of composers such as P. Welffens and W. Kersters and the rise of an independent ballet culture. Through his work with this genre, Van der Velden rediscovered his predilection for movement and drama. His musical manner of expression was aimed chiefly at the creation of dynamic tension, sometimes with the most sober means possible. Another characteristic of his style is the use of chromatic melodies in combination with a functional-tonal harmony. Van der Velden's music moves between extremes: besides rhythmic (especially in the ballet music) and expressive works (e.g., his Kamermuziek for viola and instrumental ensemble, 1956), there are also compositions with a somewhat more lyrical character (especially the vocal works). In his early works there is a clear affinity with the established styles of, among others, Debussy and Ravel, evident in songs on texts by Baudelaire and Verlaine. In his later compositions, he abandoned this principle and developed his own musical style. He did, however, continue to make use of established principles, although he did not always pursue them radically. For instance, he sometimes developed dodecaphonic themes, but did not develop them according to strict serial principles.

As noted above, ballet music holds the central place in the oeuvre of Renier Van der Velden. He composed his first ballet, Provinciestad 1900 , in 1937. The work is based on a scenario by Roger Avermaete for the relatively small scoring of two pianos. In 1947 he composed the first ballets for larger forces: De zakdoekjes (The Handkerchiefs) and De ontvoering van Proserpina (The Abduction of Proserpina, which, besides the version for orchestra, he also arranged for chamber orchestra). In stylistic terms, these two works are totally different: the rather light character of De zakdoekjes contrasts with the dramatic sound-world of De ontvoering van Proserpina (with its many solo passages and the use of many different orchestral colours). In the years that followed, he produced ballet music which ranged widely in type and quality. Van der Velden himself found Proserpina, Judith, Triomf van de dood (Triumph of Death), and Oostendse maskers (Oostende Masks) to be his most important compositions. He saw other ballets, such as, for example, De zakdoekjes , as having only a functional value because of their limited number of characters. Moreover, the fact that the four ballets mentioned here were also occasionally performed in the concert hall in suite form, without their visual element, was proof for Van der Velden of their value as absolute music. In his ballet music, Van der Velden often drew inspiration from famous painters; for example, James Ensor in Oostendse maskers (1965) and Pieter Brueghel in De Dulle Griet (with versions in 1949 and 1990, with a scenario by R. Avermaete). Van der Velden also composed songs, with his Eight Songs on Texts by Karel Van de Woestijne (1951) considered an important contribution to the song repertoire. This also applies to his Avondgeluiden (Evening Sounds, of which he made two versions: in 1956 for alto and orchestra/middle voice and piano, and in 1985, for high voice and orchestra) on a text by Paul van Ostaijen.

Van der Velden's compositions for chamber-music ensemble are very diverse in terms of musical material and mood. The Concertino for flute and strings (1965) contains both lively rhythmic passages (in the outer movements) and expressively nostalgic passages (in the lento, in which the flute plays a rather melancholic melody above the orchestral accompaniment). The Second Concerto for wind quintet (1955), in four movements, is written in a polyphonic style. The first movement is strongly polyphonic. The entry of the flute is developed as a main theme, with techniques such as reduction and inversion. With its long melodic lines and the superimposition of different independent parts, the work gains a Neo-Baroque character. In the second movement (adagio espressivo), the oboe part is dodecaphonically developed, after which it is repeated by the flute and then once again by the oboe. The third movement (after a short transitional passage) has a scherzo-like character. In the last movement (allegro), there are contrasts between syncopations, triplets and surprising accents on the one hand, and longer melodic phrases on the other. A similar diversity can be found in Beweging for two pianos (1965) or for orchestra (1968). The work does not have a classic structure. It is in fact a tripartite movement, consisting of a slow introduction, a quick fugal central section with a powerful rhythmical development and a slow concluding section. Van der Velden makes use both of dodecaphonic-like themes and orchestral contrasts (especially in the interpolations of the brass instruments), as well as linear polyphony and a martellato style in the piano. The first movement of the Concertino for violin and chamber orchestra (1964) features striking tempo changes, following a slow-fast-slow scheme. The violin begins with a soloistic, slow eight-bar introduction. The tempo then increases to allegro moderato, eventually falling back into the slow opening tempo.

After retiring from the BRT in 1975, Van der Velden composed only short works for smaller forces, including Indruk (Impression, 1976), Nocturne voor beeldhouwer Marc Macken (Nocturne for the Sculptor Marc Macken, 1979) and Nocturne voor kunstschilder Antoon Martboom (Nocturne for the Painter Antoon Martboom, 1983). The 1979 Nocturne is a very polyphonic work, with a lyrical melody. It was originally intended for piano, but in 1986 Van der Velden composed a version for wind ensemble.

- Ballet: Provinciestad 1900 (1937); De ontvoering van Proserpina (1947); Dulle Griet (1949 en 1990); Judith (1955); Triomf van de dood (1964); Oostendse maskers (1965).
- Orchestra: Concerto for trumpet (1941); Concerto for hobo (1941); Concerto for violin and orchestra (1958); Beweging (1965 en 1968); Sinfonietta for orchestra (1970); Arlequinade (1980).
- Chamber music: Divertimento for string orchestra (1938); Sinfonietta for strings (1942); Trio for hobo, clarinet and bassoon (1943); Concertino for chamber orchestra (1949); Chamber music for alto (1956); Concerto for two piano's and brass quintet (1965); Elegie (1983), for hobo.
- Vocal: Eight lieder on lyrics by Karel Van de Woestijne for high voice and piano or orchestral accompaniment (1946); Avondgeluiden, on lyrics by Paul van Ostayen (1954, 1954 and 1985).

- CORBET, A., art. Renier Van der Velden, in Algemene muziekencyclopedie,10, Antwerpen-Amsterdam, 1960, p.99-100.
- HEUGHEBAERT, H., Renier Van der Velden, in Harop, nr. 2, 1967, p. 35-40.
- Renier Van der Velden, in Music in Belgium-Contemporary Belgian Composers, ed. dr. A. MANTEAU, Brussel, 1964.

- Concerto nr. 2 for wind quintet (Blaaskwintet van Brussel), Decca 143.333.
- Mijn God, Gij ziet de zee (L. Devos and M. Gazelle), Philips A 10481.
- Preludium for piano (Lode Backx), Olympia.

[© 2002 by Simon Keyers, for MATRIX]


  • A l'aube, 1955
    Soprano or Tenor and piano 00:03:00
  • Acht liederen, 1951
    Soprano or Tenor and piano 00:23:00
  • Acht Van De Woestyne-liederen, 1951
    high voice and orchestra 00:25:00
  • Adagio en finale, 1939
    violin, viola, cello 00:14:00
  • Andante espressivo, 1955
    piano 00:08:00
  • Arlequinade, 1980
    orchestra 00:12:00
  • Arlequinade, 1980
    flute 00:12:00
  • Avondgeluiden, 1954
    Alto and orchestra 00:03:00
  • Avondgeluiden, 1954
    middle voice and piano 00:03:00
  • Avondgeluiden, 1985
    high voice and orchestra 00:03:00
  • Balletmuziek, 1972
    brass and piano 00:11:00
  • Beweging, 1965
    2 pianos 00:08:00
  • Beweging, 1968
    orchestra 00:10:00
  • C'était le jour, 1948
    Soprano or Tenor and piano 00:02:00
  • Christofoor, 1964
    middle voice and piano 00:02:30
  • Concertino, 1949
    chamber orchestra 00:15:00
  • Concertino, 1964
    violin and chamber orchestra 00:17:00
  • Concertino, 1964
    violin and piano 00:17:00
  • Concertino, 1965
    flute and string orchestra 00:17:00
  • Concertino, 1965
    flute and piano 00:17:00
  • Concertino, 1965
    2 pianos, 2 trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba 00:12:00
  • Concerto, 1941
    oboe and orchestra 00:20:00
  • Concerto, 1941
    oboe and piano 00:20:00
  • Concerto, 1940
    trumpet and orchestra 00:18:00
  • Concerto, 1971
    piano and string orchestra 00:15:00
  • Concerto, 1958
    violin and orchestra 00:20:20
  • Concerto nr.1, 1939
    flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon 00:17:00
  • Concerto nr.2, 1955
    flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon 00:16:00
  • De ontvoering van Proserpine, 1947
    chamber orchestra 00:30:00
  • De ontvoering van Proserpine, 1947
    orchestra 00:30:00
  • De triomf van de dood, 1963
    large orchestra 00:30:00
  • Deux mélodies, 1934
    Soprano or Tenor and piano 00:05:30
  • Deux mélodies, 1933
    middle voice and piano 00:04:00
  • Divertimento, 1938
    string orchestra 00:16:00
  • Divertimento, 1957
    oboe, clarinet, bassoon 00:11:00
  • Divertimento, 1933
    flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon 00:14:00
  • Drie korte stukken, 1933
    clarinet in B flat and bassoon 00:11:00
  • Dulle Griet, 1949
    orchestra 00:30:00
  • Dulle Griet, 1990
    orchestra 00:15:00
  • Dulle Griet: Suite, 1952
    orchestra 00:13:00
  • El Desdichado, 1960
    Soprano and piano 00:02:30
  • Elégie, 1973
    cello 00:00:00
  • Elegie, 1983
    oboe 00:00:00
  • Entrada
    2 trumpets and 2 trombones 00:04:00
  • Er gaat een goede beedlaar, 1946
    Soprano or Tenor and piano 00:00:00
  • Etude nr.16, 1972
    4 timpani and piano 00:04:00
  • Fanfare, 1961
    fanfare 00:08:00
  • Fantaisie, 1967
    clarinet quartet 00:10:00
  • Habanera, 1938
    orchestra or small orchestra 00:06:30
  • Habanera - Danse, 1938
    band 00:06:30
  • Huit poèmes op. 21/1-4, 1939
    Soprano and piano 00:04:00
  • Hulde aan Leos Janacek, 1973
    flute, oboe and orchestra 00:14:00
  • Impromptu, 1984
    flute 00:00:00
  • Improvisation, 1953
    guitar 00:06:30
  • Indruk aan zee, 1930
    orchestra 00:07:00
  • Judith, 1951
    2 pianos and percussion 00:30:00
  • Judith, 1951
    orchestra 00:30:00
  • Kamermuziek, 1956
    viola and instrumental ensemble 00:24:00
  • L'adieu, 1960
    Soprano and piano 00:00:45
  • Landschappen, 1976
    Soprano and piano 00:12:00
  • Landschappen, 1976
    Soprano and chamber orchestra 00:12:00
  • Les amours du torero, 1948
    2 pianos 00:07:00
  • Les amours du torero, 1948
    orchestra 00:07:00
  • Les ancêtres, 1949
    chamber orchestra 00:20:00
  • Les mouchoirs, 1947
    orchestra 00:20:00
  • Les mouchoirs, 1947
    orchestra 00:20:00
  • Les mouchoirs, 1947
    piano 00:20:00
  • Liedjes voor de jeugd op. 26, 1937
    middle voice and piano 00:06:00
  • Liedjes voor de jeugd op. 26, 1937
    middle voice and orchestra 00:06:00
  • Maneschijn, 1953
    Soprano or Tenor and piano 00:02:15
  • Maneschijn, 1953
    Soprano, flute, violin, cello and piano 00:02:15
  • Maskers, 1965
    orchestra 00:28:00
  • Nacht, 1935
    Alto and piano 00:03:00
  • Nacht, 1935
    Alto and small orchestra 00:03:00
  • Nocturne, 1974
    piano 00:05:00
  • Nocturne, 1983
    guitar 00:05:30
  • Nocturne, 1982
    clarinet in B flat 00:06:00
  • Nocturne, 1980
    flute, guitar and cello 00:06:30
  • Nocturne
    violin and cello 00:00:00
  • Nocturne en studie, 1968
    piano 00:15:00
  • Nocturne voor Beeldhouwer Mark Macken, 1958
    10 wind instruments 00:06:00
  • Nocturne voor Beeldhouwer Mark Macken, 1958
    string orchestra 00:06:00
  • Nocturne voor Beeldhouwer Mark Macken, 1958
    piano 00:06:00
  • O blik vol dood en sterren, 1946
    Soprano or Tenor and piano 00:00:00
  • Oostendse maskers, 1965
    orchestra 00:18:30
  • Op vleugelvooize steeg ter zon..., 1960
    middle voice and piano 00:01:30
  • Prelude nr.7, 1980
    piano 00:06:00
  • Quatre mélodies brèves, 1939
    middle voice and piano 00:01:30
  • Regen op. 26, 1937
    middle voice and orchestra 00:02:00
  • Sextuor, 1948
    flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon and piano 00:12:00
  • Sluit uw oogen op het licht, 1946
    Soprano or Tenor and piano 00:00:00
  • Staplied, 1940
    Baritone and orchestra 00:01:30
  • Staplied, 1940
    middle voice and piano 00:01:30
  • Studie, 1969
    chamber orchestra 00:10:00
  • Stuk, 1970
    flute and piano 00:09:00
  • Symphonie, 1967
    small orchestra 00:23:32
  • Symphonische suite, 1938
    orchestra 00:10:00
  • Trio, 1943
    oboe, clarinet, bassoon 00:15:00
  • Triptiek, 1977
    2 trumpets and 2 trombones 00:25:00
  • Trois préludes (1, 2, 3), 1938
    piano 00:15:00
  • Trois préludes (4, 5, 6), 1948
    piano 00:12:00
  • Twee dialogen, 1971
    clarinet in B flat and piano 00:10:00
  • Twee liederen, 1971
    Mezzo-Soprano and piano quartet 00:04:00
  • Vijf bagatellen, 1977
    flute, viola and cello 00:18:00
  • Vlaanderen, o welig huis..., 1957
    Soprano and piano 00:03:30
  • Weer rijst het, 1985
    Tenor and keyboard 00:00:00
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